A True Story told by Mama: Intestinal Malrotation

Becoming a mom was a dream come true; metaphorically but also literally, because I dreamed about having a baby boy years prior to conceiving. After overcoming the fear of sharing this news with family, I was excited about my pregnancy. I remember the first onesie I bought at H&M – “I love mum and dad”, it said. And other than my kidney infection, pregnancy was amazing; I truly loved it. Although, I never really knew what to expect once my son arrived. People gave advice, and I read bits and pieces of books, which, provided my favorite words of advice: “Your motherly instincts will know what to do, your body was made for this”. Or some version of that. It mostly helped calm my nerves from the unknown of labor. But as I sit here, almost 5 years into motherhood, I am able to start putting some pieces together as to why my parents did and said a lot things as I grew up. I also understand how naive and innocent our minds are before entering parenthood. Everybody’s story is different and we all have our own plot twist, but this was the beginning of ours..

Not having an answer, cure, or remedy…

Fast forward and our sweet little boy, Levi, was home with us from the hospital. Family visited, many pictures taken, and lots of love was showered. It was all new to me and maybe I don’t remember much because it all happened so fast, plus I was running on a short supply of sleep. It only took a couple of weeks to realize that something wasn’t right. After nursing my son, what would follow was projectile vomiting. Bright yellow projecting vomit. So, as most moms would do, I took him to visit his pediatrician. “Heart Burn” the Dr. said. Confused but trusting in his expertise, we went back home. It was almost Thanksgiving, and thankfully, our family decided to celebrate it one week early. Levi was only a couple of weeks old, and I remember him laying in his swing with eyes of innocence and exhaustion. And we were no longer dealing with yellow, but now bright green projectile vomit. It makes me cry thinking about it because I felt a feeling that no parent wants to experience; not having an answer, cure, or remedy for your child’s suffering. 

A Second Opinion

We returned to the hospital within a few days for a second opinion. From then on, it is a bit of a blur, but I will do my best to explain. It was just me and my newborn. I remember standing in an x-ray room. It was white, cold, quiet, and clean. There was a very large machine; and we were accompanied by two doctors. As they were looking inside my son’s belly behind the big glass window and computer screens, they called me over to see. If I could best guess, the conversation went something like this:

Doctor: You see this?

Me: Yes. (Staring at black and white weird shapes)

Doctor: Intestinal Malrotation, he needs immediate surgery 

I remember waiting for an option B. Like maybe: 

“He’ll grow out of it” OR “This medicine will fix it”

Me: OR…?  I asked the Doctor. 

Doctor: It is life-threatening if left untreated.

I think this is when I hit my survival mode button. I called his father and every family member I could think of. The nurse came up to me after speaking with the Doctor and when telling her that I was okay, I remember her response clear as day, “You must still be in shock”. I did not quite understand in the moment, but I think the second I tried to speak, tears came streaming down my face. I realized then that this wasn’t her first, and my baby boy was now in the hands of his surgeons. 

What is Intestinal Malrotation?

Small explanation from my memory: Intestinal Malrotation is a twisting of the intestines due to improper formation from the womb. In English, Levi’s food wasn’t digesting properly from one intestine to the other; because it was incapable of working its way through the twisting. To my knowledge, they had to go in, cut his intestine, untwist it, and sew it back together. It is amazing to think back now, how incredibly skilled our doctors are to successfully achieve this procedure. What I also learned is that Intestinal Malrotation is most-common in caucasian, first-born males. And we fell right into that category.

That night, Levi went into surgery. In the waiting room our family waited, a few hours passed, and his surgeon woke me up with a pleasant greeting.

Surgeon: Everything went as expected. You can see your son now. 

Me: Thank you, Jesus (I thought).  

But to my surprise, our hospital visit was not over, and my boyfriend needed to head home to pack my supplies to last through the following week.

One week in the hospital

In retrospect, that doesn’t seem very long. But it was L-O-N-G. Levi couldn’t breastfeed, in fact, he couldn’t eat anything for the first few days except sugar water, and not much of it. He needed an IV, and kept pulling the needle out of his hand. A nurse came in one night to place it back in, but spent almost an hour continuing to miss his baby-sized vein. She must have poked him 5 times before I almost fainted from the heartbreak of an inability to comfort him. One week. One week of deciding if my newborn needed more morphine or ibuprofen to ease the pain. What parent wants to make that decision? Each day was hard. Each day we hoped and prayed for progress so that we could take our baby home. I remember Thanksgiving night passed by and I was in the hospital alone with Levi, when a sweet nurse came in to bring me a piece of pumpkin pie. I’ll never forget that pie, because I cried, and I couldn’t eat it. I couldn’t fathom the idea of enjoying a piece of pie while my son laid there unable to eat; with tubes and cords coming out of and surrounding him. 

Toward the end of our unexpected stay, a social worker visited me. At the time it didn’t make sense why she came to speak with me. But she was very kind and helpful in more ways than I could ever thank her for. As I reflect, my appreciation goes out to her in abundance because what I went through was more traumatic than I gave credit to. Maybe this is something that all mama’s experience, but there is a fear of losing my child that lives inside of me. And I love him so much that it is terrifying to think about for even one second. 

Strong Mom’s need Hugs too

I don’t have all of the answers as to why circumstances happen in the way that they do. It would be easy for me to say that the whole experience made me stronger, wiser, and closer to God; which it most definitely did. But there are times that I really just feel afraid and weak, with nothing more within me than to get down on my knees thanking God for another day; and praying for many more to come. I feel like as a mom, we take on the strong role, and I will admit that we are, very, V E R Y strong. But sometimes, what is handed to us is more than we can handle alone and I want to remind you that it’s okay to ask for help, advice, or even something as simple as a “real hug” (as I like to call them). 

We all came home after that long-suffering week. And even though it was a scary and challenging time, the scar above his belly button almost 5 years later, is another reminder that life is all too precious. So if I could encourage you to look at your baby, no matter their age, in complete awe – then I believe that I have done my job in sharing this piece of our story with you. Hug them a little tighter, play the board game again; even if it’s for the 100th time, and let them tell you “one more” story before bedtime.

Lastly, you are a hero, mama. You are brave, and strong, and capable. But even being all of those things, I still needed family and friends supporting, praying for, and encouraging me through this experience. So please let us not forget – that we are not alone; but in this together.

xoxo,

Stephanie

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

John 14:27

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